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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Holmes Basic in Sunny Rolls the Dice




Sunny Rolls the Dice (2019) is the third in a series of graphic novels about Sunny, a teen growing up in suburban Pennsylvania in the 1970s. It is co-created by Jennifer L. Holm, a Newberry Honor author, and her brother Matthew Holm, an illustrator, and is semi-autobiographical, inspired by the Holms' own childhood, particularly Jennifer's.

The first two books in the series are Sunny Side Up (2015) and Swing It Sunny (2017), and a fourth, Sunny Makes a Splash, is in production. I've currently read the first and third ones and greatly enjoyed both of them, but 
Sunny Rolls the Dice is a particular favorite for its loving treatment of Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s. The series starts in 1976 and proceeds chronologically, so with the third book starting in mid-1977, it's the right time for Holmes Basic, and sure enough that's what Sunny encounters when she first plays D&D with kids in her neighborhood, appropriately in her family's newly finished basement rec room:




The Holms take pains to include details faithful to the era in which the series is set, and I'm impressed that here they appropriately show an early edition of the Holmes set that includes a Monster & Treasure Assortment Set 1: Levels 1-3 and a set of five polyhedral dice. In a minor nitpick that only an early D&D fan will notice, the colors of the accessories are off (the M&T Set 1 should be yellow - Set 3 was blue - and the dice are the wrong colors), but the illustrations are spot on, including a d20 showing a "0" instead of a "10" or "20".

The story also heavily features the original Monster Manual, and the back of the book includes a photo of a young Holm with her own copy. I get this; learning about monsters was what originally attracted me to D&D.

The appearance of D&D in this story is not just period window-dressing; the game is a pivotal part of the plot, as you may have guessed from the title of the book.

To hear the author herself talking about this book and her experiences with D&D growing up, listen to this recent Save or Die interview with Jennifer Holm. A big thank you to DM Carl at Save or Die for letting me know that Holmes Basic was featured in this book.

You can preview the first section of the book, up to the beginning of Sunny's first D&D game, over at Amazon:



(All product links include Amazon or DMsGuild/DrivthruRPG affiliate #s)

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